Goonites Tell Their Stories was first published two years ago on punkpinks a bandit’s tip. We re-publish this piece in honor of two of the folks who were interviewed for this story. Sammy Tonino and Bobby Holcomb may they have found all that their hearts desire wherever they may be.
Goonites Tell Their Stories
On a recent 4 day visit to Goon City I looked up some old friends. Now this is something that I don’t usually do when I am down there unless of course I go over and have a nice chat with Ruthie Hillard. One never knows what to expect from people from ones past, would there be anything to talk about, anything at all in common anymore. I have never returned for a class reunion and a few years back I got a letter in the mail which listed all the committee members. Well not one of those folks had I even thought about in 40 years. I met up with Sammy who still lives close to the center of town. He has an apartment in an old Victorian that once was the home of one of the wealthy bosses who ran a brass company. I stopped off in Whistlers a bar right outside of the run down section of town and there he was perched on a stool like the odd rare bird he was. I went back to his place visited some more. I told him about this blog and he said sure I will tell you a story. I love stories as you know we all were full of stories that are just itching to be told. Someone has to remember to tell them so we can at least look back in our old ages and say oh, so that is how it was, now I remember. When life gets hard and we are back to shitting our pants if we can get a nurse to get us to the toilet on time, and all is well then a little story would be nice as pie.
Brass Knuckles. Sammy loved to use them when fighting.
I was a bad boy then and I am a bad boy now. Now don’t get me wrong I was only bad to some people some of the time. Never was I bad to old ladies who I have the fondest memories of. I use to sneak into their house just to smell their lilac water and powder. One time old Mabel Weir almost caught me in her bedroom and I hid under the bed along with boxes of this and that. I almost started to laugh when she sat down on the bed and put on her slippers. How I wanted to tickle her feet she would have jumped a mile and probably hit the ceiling. I don’t know what I would have done if she found me, strangle her? I most likely would have had to do that so she wouldn’t tell on me. She was to old to fuck and I wouldn’t want to be put on the spot if she asked me to do her. My aunt Minnie told me that Mabel was a burlesque dancer back in the day so there is no telling if she was still hot to trot. But it never came down to that, I got out the side door when she left the room to make her water. If I had a mask I would have put it on and peeped in the door and growled at her then ran. I really should have done it. But I liked old ladies too much but if they caught me sniffing their underwear no telling how I would have to react as no one was going to send me to reform school.
I had enough trouble in my life. But once my bad boyness did take over. Once way before they had in door plumbing and I was around 10 or 11, Mabel’s husband Merton was sitting out in the outhouse when I came walking by. The outhouse was up a little hill from the path to get down to the railroad tracks. I heard the noise of some grunter doing their business and decided to play a little trick. I went up to the outhouse and pushed on the side. I pushed again and again. The house began rocking. Damn if I am not careful I could tip this whole out house over grunter and all. Well Merton started screaming as he didn’t know if it was an earthquake or some other type of problem. I got away just as old Mabel came around the corner to see what all the racked was. That old Clara Palmer who lived down below the hill heard the commotion and saw me running away. You know she got on the phone right away to Mabel and told her what she saw. Folks looked out back then in a way that all kids tried to avoid. When i got home my father beat my ass with his belt swearing at me that I would be sent off to reform school if I ever bothered that family again. He beat me until I cried, he beat me until I had blood running down my legs, he beat me until I passed out. He was a mean fucker and I hated his guts. Some folks piss on other people’s grave on my father’s I shit.
My father also use to beat me when he was drunk which was just about all the time when he was home. He really liked to do it up on holidays and my mother and us kids spent many of them crying. Never was right. He always said that he wanted me to grow up and thought that by hitting me was the way to do it. I’ve heard other fathers of that generation were like that. Must have been a very unhappy lot of men. Well he stopped once when I kicked him in the balls, pulled a knife on him when he was on the ground holding his head back I told him I was gonna slit his throat like a pig. Well that fucker never bothered me again and that is all I have to say about it.
I knew I was a man as I started to get a hard dick at 11. Learned to jerk off then and fucked my first piece of ass at 11 1/2. My younger cousin Dickie Moons always came around my house. He was a little fem boy and liked to stroke my hard dick. I taught him to jerk off and he did it everyday. Once when he was over here and we had the house to ourselves I convinced him to lay on his stomach and I greased his ass up with vaseline and stuck my dick it. Man did he cry at first. TAKE IT OUT, OH PLEASE TAKE IT OUT. Well I was having none of that and tried to sooth him and finally he opened up and I was able to get off. I liked boys and I liked girls, I still do at 69. You want to drop your pants right now Benny I would suck your dick just like I use to when you lived in Goon City or if some girl came her and showed me her pussy I would jump all over it with my tongue. No stopping me when it comes to having sex. I love it and still jerk myself off each and every day. Sometimes I do it twice. I do it on Sunday too. Don’t give a rats ass what the bible says. You know there was an old song that we use to sing in bible camp when I was young, it went “you find it in the bible, you find it in the bible, you find it in the bible so you know its true.” Yeah okay, but I still will spill my own seed if I want to on Sunday. Now this isn’t to say that I would go into a church and jerk off my dick and let it go all over the floor, but then again maybe, just maybe. Could be fun.
I joined the Spuds when I was 16. We were a tough bunch of outlaw kids. You remember that chain fight we had at Carriers Cassino way back with those dudes from Portland? I still got my brass knuckles. The chief of police just sat in his car scared to come out. Man did we bloody up those guys. Chains, brass knuckles those were what we had to fight. No guns. Guns were the easy way out. Bamn the guy is down, no contact. We loved the contact love to see the guy bleeding, loved to sucker punch him and kick him when he was down. Just like I learned from my old man. Guess I turned out just like him in away, I don’t have any kids to beat so I beat grown men who come into town and try to steal chicks from the guys and hang out. We didn’t want them around Goon City. Course there were more of us and when the kids who danced in the place came out to join in the rumble we outnumbered them 10 to 1. We loved that, screaming kids to add to the festivities of the beat. I remember you were there that night. That is when I first saw you and knew that I wanted to get to know you better. I could tell by the way you screamed at the police that you were a fairy, during the rumble we caught each others eye more than once. Bobby Sullivan told me you worked down at Old Edgars Grease Pit and was there almost every afternoon. When I walked in the door I knew it right away by the way you looked at me from behind the counter that you wanted me, everything to do with me, and would melt at my touch.
Bobby turned us on to smoking grass and doing pills. His father was the pharmacist in town and owned the drug store. Bobby worked there on Friday and Saturdays and would sneak out some pills. We got wild more than once on a Saturday night. Ed Forrest would buy us some booze as long as one of us let him suck our cocks. Which was no trouble as we were sucking each other all the time anyway. We weren’t faggots now, don’t get me wrong, no we just like to get off in any way we could. Bobby, me, Brub,Joey and Terry now we were a crew that if you saw us in our tattoos and leather most folks would keep their eye on us or cross over to the other side of the street. We loved to rumble with the Main Street boys, I forgot what they called themselves, we called them the fairies light. But when it came time to fight off guys from other towns we all joined together.
Joey got sent to reform school as the police claimed that he was with a group of kids who derailed the freight train. Glad I wasn’t with those boys that day. My mother and I were out-of-town visiting her sister. I only went because she wasn’t feeling all that well and needed me to help her. So Joey was out of our group. Now that wasn’t much fun as he liked to bottom for us and now we didn’t have one we could depend on getting off with. I guess one of the Johnson boys cried out his name as being the ring leader in the derailing of the train. I don’t know as he never hung around down near the tracks with anyone. Don’t think he found that too interesting. Maybe he was also bottoming for the Johnson boys I don’t know but don’t really think so. They were like mamma boys, I remember Mrs. Johnson saying to them, “Now remember the only thing that we throw is a ball and a kiss.” How we laughed when she use to come out to the field and say that. We all threw her a kiss and she loved it. Thought we had been converted to her ball and kiss league. She was okay though. She would always count the kids playing and then bring out refreshments for all of us. We would sit under the trees and she would tell us about all the baseball games that had happened when she lived in Maine. Well her two boys turned out not to be so good really. They were bullies to some of the kids. There was a black kid you hung around with that was constantly bothered by them and you were too come to think of it. They stayed nice but only when Mrs. Johnson was around. But those were her boys and when they derailed the train she cried and cried and yelled at Mert Weir for telling on her dear little boys. Mabel Weir told her that it was a shame but Mert had to tell what he saw as some others were blaming kids that weren’t even there that day. Mr. Palmer did too. He knew each one of the kids who were out there that day. Everyone was afraid that the engineer was dead as he was slumped over in the driver’s seat tipped to one side. Must have scared the crap out of him. I don’t know who fingered Joey but he told us that he wasn’t even there.
I saw Terry about 20 years ago when I moved back to Goon City. He was a drinker, did a lot of dope and hung out at the Purple Cow. He’d be there most nights of the week. Changed beyond anything that I cared to cuddle with. Last I knew he was in a hospice down in Branford on his last leg. I wanted to go down and see him but didn’t. How I remember him, long blonde hair, nice muscles, fat ass and lips one wanted to have all around their dick. You remember that little apartment out in the barn behind the cleaners? Well that is where he ended up living. My aunt Sylvia who owned the cleaners rented it to him. She felt real sorry for him as she knew his mother when she was alive. Didn’t even care if he paid the rent or not. He got a bum deal in life she always said and someone should show him some kindness. A real bum deal. He was out on the streets when he was 12 as his father ran away and his mother was in jail more times than not. She passed bad checks all over the place and robbed the convenience store once. That’s what did it, she got stuck in jail. Terry was sent to a foster home in Midland but ran away and hid out in the old mill for the summer. I guess the officers stopped looking for him as he didn’t show his face in daylight. He’d sneak around at night just like the night crawlers getting food and visiting with us his friends. Sylvia would always make sure that he took a bath, eat some food, and packed up some clean clothes for him. Of course she gave him money too so he could pay for other things he needed. My aunt was good that way. Guess that is why I liked old ladies. He laid low all that summer and into the winter. Sylvia made a nice little place for him down in her basement and he helped out in the cleaners, pressing clothing after hours and cleaning up around the place. Then when the clock struck 12 he was off. Out through the dark allies and all over the town he went. Many times I thought to myself he would make a good underground revolutionary. Things changed for him when he turned 18 as then he was free. He could come out of hiding and pick up his life. How strange it was for him then to be out in the daylight able to walk the street, go to the package store and not have to worry that he would be swept up and sent back to the foster care system. He told us that the only reason the folks that took him in wanted him was to work in the auto shop from morning to-night with no pay and he was having none of that.
“So drop those pants let’s have some fun,” Sammy said.
*I went out walking on day two of my stay in Goon City and purposely went by Bear Water Bates home. I went in the back of Ruthie Hillard’s property and walked through the woods, through the Pine Tree Forest, past the old cemetery down the hill behind the retaining wall. Well there was, Bear Water Bates out in his side yard sawing wood for his stove.
Wangunk Signatures along with English. An interesting note is that females were allowed to sign the document deeding land on the Wangunk side but the English were represented by only men.*
Bear Water Bates.
My tribe is the Wangunk. That blood runs in me pure today. My people never mixed with any others. This house here is on land that my ancestors held on to over the years. How they did it I will never know with all these white people taking over the town. Right here we stays at the run off of Lake Poocatobock When the white invaders first came to these parts we were known as the river indians. That is what they called us because we extended south from Hartford to south of Middletown. Wangunk was our word for the bend as that is where many of our people lived at the bend of the Connecticut River. The first land that was sold to a white man in this area was sold by Chief Terramuggus in 1675. My grandmother use to say that it was way up on the other side of the lake so folks down around the place of the rushes as this area was called watched with a wearing eye. We were a peaceful people with deep religious beliefs and customs. Of course they tried to Christianize us but for the most part we were impervious to all their efforts. Here is a little story that I know you have heard. Mrs. Curtis’s great-aunt came around interfering with our little pow-wow trying to break up our ceremony with her Christian talk. Well some of the boys got hot under the collar and scalped the bitch. Well that brought on a terrible retribution from other whites in the area and nine of our men were killed. All around the lake my people dwelled, the game and fish were plentiful and if you read in the bible about the land of milk and honey well that was what this land was. Most of my people are gone now I have only fond memories to keep me going. My wife died two years ago and my son moved away 10 years ago. He’s off living in New Mexico and very rarely comes out this way. Married a white girl the first of our family to do so. Now I have nothing against white folks, got to get along with them, that’s how we survived all these years. But you know I will be honest with you I wish they had never come around here. Look what they have done, leaving their markings everywhere like a stray dog pissing all over the place.
This little house was built by my great-grandfather. I think the water in our well must come from the lake. Oh well didn’t hurt me none over the years. I don’t drink it now. I carry in all my water for cooking and drinking. Too much has been constructed around the lake now that runs off into the small set pond and them into this pond. Back in the day we use to pull up water from the pond to wash the clothes and take a bath. Won’t try any of that now. It’s a shame how folks ruin things. Ruin the lake, ruin the air, ruin the trees, ruin this and everything else. I bet all that salt they spread on the road in the winter does a job on something. At least the Beavns were smart to hold on to the land on the other side of my house. All woods until Ruthie Hillard’s property starts and she’s got woods after that. Now those woods have been here since I was a boy except a small part where old Gordon kept his cows. All grown up with brush and trees now as he’s been gone 30 years and none one else in his family cared to take up farming. Lot of hard work especially getting up so damn early on a cold winters day to milk cows. They got to be milked and they don’t care what the weather is. I loved growing up here near the pond. It was so peaceful back then. My grandmother lived with us until she died and told me many stories of our people. She taught my mother Bessie all about wild herbs and how to cure anything that was ailing a person. I use to go all over into the woods and the meadows collecting herbs, bark and berries. Of course gathering didn’t appeal all that much to me as I saw it as women’s work. My pa use to take me hunting out towards the Mudhole. The deer was plentiful out there. Only a few folks lived in those parts and we stayed to the east of their settlement. You were always one of my mothers favorite people around here. She knew at that time you had a special spirit about you and said if you were Wangunk you would be a medicine man. I remember when we were kids going out with Clara Palmer, my mother and Mrs. Langon to collect herbs. I hated it but you loved it. I don’t know if you loved the old ladies or the learning of herbs. Did you ever continue your studies. “Nah,” I said, “I got way laid and lived in the cities most of my life but now have begun to re-study herbal medicine again.” Funny how knowledge is, a person never really forgets it, it’s there somewhere down in the memory banks just waiting peacefully to come out again and serve. It’s a wonderful thing to have.
*Ellen Walton Myers lives next to the house where I stayed during my visit to Goon City. She was a friend of my mothers when I was growing up and remains close to my sisters today. If she heard I was in town and didn’t stop to see her she would get mad, real mad. That boy always going here and there but not stopping by, now this place is here and if he isn’t good about stopping I will cut him out of my will and leave his portion to someone else. Maybe the cat and dog shelter. So I always make it a point to stop. Ellen as she always told us to call her is always fun to visit with. She claims she doesn’t know all that much about politics but when I hear her carry on its like a breath of fresh air.
Ellen Walton Myers
I came to Goon City when I was 10. We lived out in the woods near Swensonville. My aunt and uncle and my favorite cousin Lydia moved to Goon city first. My uncle wrote to my father come on move to Goon City they got lots of work here and the women can find a job in the thread mill. So we all went to take a look one Saturday and stayed over to Monday when Pa went to apply at the bell factory. Got the job right away. Folks knew that Swedes were strong and very willing to work. My Pa was convinced that life would be better for all of us if we moved into the city but mother was pretty stand-offish about the whole thing. She told me in private that she would feel out-of-place since she didn’t have many dresses to wear and a woman would need a dress for shopping and one for working in the factory. Well my aunt said we both have a sewing machine that we can use , no problem we’ll make you some dresses and some dresses for Ellen too. My mother rounded up all the material she could find that would be suitable for making dresses out of and stopped worrying so much. She was very good at sewing and should have been a fashion designer. My aunt told her that Milly Olsen was looking for a good seamstress to work in her dress shop and mother applied and got the job. Mrs. Olsen was very impressed with her sewing and how she could take out a hem with no trace of a hem ever being hemmed before. Mrs. Olsen was a very nice women and gave my mothers the ends of bolts of material to make dresses for me out of. She loved to see how my mother could mostly work without a pattern and come up with a fine dress. She could look over a picture or a pattern and wham bam in a few days you would have your dress. Of course it helped that Bertha Prince had two dresses made by my mother. Mrs. Prince had a very big mouth and spread the word. “Mrs. Walton sure can sew, just look that this fine dress she made for me.” Well folks were lining up at the door all wanting my mother to make them a dress. Mrs. Olsen gave her a big raise and asked if she wanted to buy into the business. Well my mother didn’t really know about such things so she said, “No Mrs. Olsen I am happy working for you, I will just stay put for now.” She worked there until the day Mrs. Olsen died and that was some 40 years later. Towards the end there were only a few women who wanted a custom-made dress as most settled for one from the department store so my mother had to settle for doing a lot of alterations. But come wedding season my mother got busy. Everyone wanted a beautiful custom-made gown to walk down the aisle in. She made my gown and its a beauty. I gave it to the historical society as they have a small section on business in town and Mrs. Olsen’s store is one of the exhibits. Mrs. Howard G. Bevan the head of the society asked me if I would donate it as it is a beautiful example of the work coming out of that shop. Mrs. Bevan had all of her good dresses made by my mother, did so up to the day she died and was buried in a beautiful yellow dress that my mother made just for that occasion. Mrs. Bevans sister was in town from California and my mother asked if she could do a dress for Mrs. Bevan to be buried in. Well she worked around the clock on that dress and everyone said how beautiful Mrs. Bevans looked.
Mrs. Olsen sure remembered my mother in her will. Left her everything, business, shop, her house and all worldly possessions. Didn’t have any family to leave anything to. See my mother said how loyalty pays off in the end. Mrs. Olsen was like a mother to me and mothers always leave their daughters something. I live today in the house that Mrs. Olsen gave to my mother. There is still the sewing shop downstairs and they also have material that they sell. Folks come around and I keep the rent real low. It’s mostly in tribute to my mother and Mrs. Olsen that I do it. I don’t need the money as my late husband Ben left me pretty well off. He had a real good pension from his job. So I am doing ok. I was always very good at secretarial work. I took up typing in school and could type 120 words a minute and that was with no mistakes. Couldn’t make mistakes back then as then it would be a mess to correct it on the carbon paper. A secretary who didn’t make any mistakes was a wonderful find and word got around that I was one of those gals. So I always had work right here in Goon City. I went to work in the Gong Bell’s office doing all sorts of jobs. I kept all the orders for the toys in order, made sure orders were filled on time, and helped with the payroll.
Ruthie and I help out with contributions to the Food Bank and to the homeless shelter here in town. Now that’s a crying shame. To see folks that we knew growing up and then some more out of work, lost their homes and now have to depend on others to get by. Nothing wrong with that and that is one thing that Ruthie and I say, “Never make anyone feel embarrassed to be given a hands up in these times.”
Those fools down in Washington sure are doing nothing really but talking. Out of all the things in the world they are in the top ten of things I do not like. So the people have to be strong and do it and hope and work for a day when folks really take matters in their own hands and not just vote for another rich man doing his rich man ways. They stink, tip them upside down and they are all the same. The Democrats are the worse they talk big to the working folks and the poor but cave in to the Republicans when the going gets tough. But you know I don’t hold out any hope any more for any real change. Folks lost that chance years ago during the depression. Should have been a revolution then. But folks just keep going on and on loving every minute of being dogs for the wealthy. Not me never was a good girl Rover and never will be.
*I ran into Bobby when I went to the supermarket to get some things for dinner. Bobby was coming down the street with a cart full of cans. He remembered me right away. “Always liked you Al (everyone was Al to him) and wish sometimes for the days when all you artists lived down here in this section of town. Look at it now. Some of the old building are gone and it’s getting harder and harder just to be me. I heard the other day a guy purchased the old Opera House and is going to renovate it and open it up as an arts center. Well that’s nice I suppose. Gotta laugh as you guys never renovated much you just moved in and made art. They don’t mind me around here, I collect all the cans they drop in the baskets up and down the street, that way they don’t get filled up so fast and never overflow onto the sidewalk. Some kids yell at me, “Hey Can Man, get a job.” That’s why I keep the bag of rocks tied to my cart, to throw them right at the kids. I never hit them. Another thing they yell at me is, “Hey Can Man hows your rabbits?” Well I aint got no damn rabbits and I then throw a rock or two. They love to play that way and expect me to throw a rock.
I’m a drunk. Been living out in the old shed behind Moe’s package store for almost 10 years now. I don’t bother nobody and I don’t want nobody bothering me. I took up drinking at an early age think I was about 13 when I took my first drink. A few of us boys got into the old Gong Bell factory and headed straight for the office suites. Billy Lanzi knew where to find some good booze as he father worked in the office there. It was right in old Jeb Conklins office. I think it was some type of gin that tasted like pine needles. I didn’t like it at all and puked my guts out. Never picked up gin again but went straight away to some whiskey. That’s what I like give me whiskey. But you know whiskey is expensive so I tend toward being a Gallo port guy more times than not. Back in the day one could buy a pint for under a dollar and get good and high. Hey give me a few dollars as I want to take a little trip this weekend to see what I can see. Like that bear that went over the mountain to see what it could see. I love my Port Gallo, that is what I like to be good and high. I don’t care nothing what society says I should be or do. If I want to get drunk and crawl home well that’s me. Say your hello Billy and be on your way. Mrs. Hinton looks out for me. She grew up with me and always was my friend. She drops off some food for me and told me that I shouldn’t worry that when they find me dead from all the booze she has set aside some money to give me a decent burial up next to my mother and father. Well I can’t look a gift horse in the mouth and tell her that I would prefer to be buried someone else. My mother and father never like me since the day I first caused my mother to miss her period. They were young don’t know if they were in love or just thought they were but my father did what was considered an honorable thing and married my mother. Sometime I would hear then fighting and saying things like “it was only because of that little bastard that I married you.” No my childhood was hell that’s why I left my home at such an early age. So if I want peace in death and not keep rolling around trying to escape them then bury me far away on the other side of the world. Dump me in the ocean for all I care. I’m nothing but a big pickled worm anyway.
* Goon City is not a pixel art project but the nickname for almost 50 years of the town where I grew up.
1. In 1673, Middletown’s English colonists officially re-purchased from the Wangunks the land already specified as Middletown, again designating two “reservations” for the Wangunks to inhabit. Both English and Wangunks signed the deed. As the Wangunks did not write English, they used different symbols–referring to their names, families, or clans–as their signatures on the 1673 land deed. Both males and females represented the Wangunks, while the English allowed only men to sign the document.”… Middletown Historical Society. Middletown was east of Goon City.